Committee discusses critical role of high-speed internet in healthcare, emergency response

STROUDSBURG – Speaking in front of a packed room at the Monroe County Safety Center, Sally Kozak, Deputy Secretary with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, testified that broadband access is critical for the delivery of high-quality healthcare.

“Lack of broadband prevents health care and emergency medical service providers from delivering the best treatment possible,” Kozak said.

“When it comes to medical services, providers need access to robust, reliable broadband to ensure they are able to communicate with patients and hospitals effectively, transmit and receive crucial data, and implement the latest technology,” she added.

The Monroe County Safety Center was where a Senate Communications and Technology Committee public hearing took place on Tuesday afternoon.

The hearing, held at the request of Senator Mario Scavello (R-Monroe/Northampton), featured experts who outlined the challenges of emergency response and health care options for local residents when high-speed internet access is non-existent.

“In the 40th Senate District, we have made headway in several cases with getting increased broadband access to specific communities and institutions,” Scavello said. “However, we need to replicate that success across the state and make it the norm, not the exception.”

The hearing, chaired by Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), is the second in a series of four hearings on how lack of high-speed internet can affect various key industries in Pennsylvania.

“As the importance of the internet in modern medicine grows, health care networks are relying on patients having access,” Phillips-Hill said. “But with the digital divide in rural areas being so vast, we are leaving a major portion of our population behind. The testimony received today reiterates that the public and private sectors have a major opportunity to close the digital divide and improve healthcare for many Pennsylvanians.”

In addition to the Department of Human Services, the hearing featured three panels, including AT&T, the Public Utility Commission, the Broadband Cable Association, Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative, the Pennsylvania State Police, Motorola, Mansfield University on behalf of the Fund for the Northern Tier, the Department of Human Services, the Pennsylvania Medical Society and St. Luke’s University Health Network.

“The largest obstacle for this project moving forward is funding,” Craig Eccher, President and CEO of Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative said. “We believe the Commonwealth must play a role in helping deliver broadband to rural communities.”

The committee heads to Fayette County for a public hearing on September 5 to review how high-speed broadband internet access impacts agriculture and education.

All information, including formal written testimony, can be found on the committee’s website at

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